Does this even need an explanation? Outside of a single poor (for his standards) performance at Gamers8 with a top 8, Serral has looked invincible and won multiple tournaments, namely ESL Summer, both the EU regional event and the international one. He beat several top players to do so, including Clem, MaxPax, Dark, Classic, Reynor and GuMiho. Even though he had a rough start in the playoffs of ESL Winter EU, barely beating Elazer and Clem 3-2, he was able to play better in the upper bracket and grand finals, defeating Reynor 3-0 and Clem 4-1.
He also won slightly lower stakes tournaments Masters Coliseum 6 and HSC24. While HSC24 had a relatively low prizepool and with only EU players, Serral’s run in Masters Coliseum 6 was quite epic and featured all the best players in the world.
He showed a lot of strength from the group stage, finishing with a 10w-0l map record vs Maru, MaxPax, ShoWTimE, GuMiho and trigger, but was sent out early in the loser’s bracket by an inspired Clem. Afterwards, Serral simply became a nigh invincible monster of a player: 3-0 Lambo, 3-1 Dark, 3-0 MaxPax, 3-0 Maru, 3-1 ByuN, 4-1 Cure to win the tournament. His aligulac rating is so high at around 3700 compared to the likes of MaxPax, Clem, Maru or herO who hang at around 3400-3500, which cements the fact that he is the big favorite for this tournament.
A few months ago, seeing Solar at #2 in a power rank would have been crazy. Heck, even seeing Solar above his teammate Maru in a power rank already feels a bit crazy. However, if you have been closely watching recent history, this should not surprise you. Solar has finally won the title that eluded him for so long, and became a GSL Code S champion in November. He was close to being eliminated once more by Maru in the first group stage, but clutched a 2-1 victory to instead send the reigning champion home early. Even during the second group stage, Solar lost to GuMiho early on, before having two clutch 2-1 wins vs DRG and Cure to get his spot to the playoffs. Perhaps the format change was good for Solar, because his form in the playoffs was very impressive: a clean 3-0 against Dark in dominant fashion, and a gentleman sweep 4-1 versus GuMiho to win it all.
On top of his great domestic results, Solar was also pretty strong internationally: he was the one to eliminate Serral in gamers8, with a 3-0 victory that propelled him as some sort of ZvZ king. He lost 1-3 vs Cure in the semifinals, but that was still a solid top 4. In the World Team League, he was a solid player for Onsyde in the regular season, with a 14w-8l record, but he became an entirely different beast in the playoffs and was the main carry versus the ogre that was Basilisk. Maru was able to beat Reynor but subsequently lost to Serral. Solar was sent out and proceeded to 2-0 Serral and beat Reynor 1-0 to win Onsyde the title.
His ZvZ proficiency when almost all the favorites are zerg players, and his good form in the other two match-ups, makes me put him at #2 in this Power Rank.
Maru is a pretty difficult player to rank at the moment. His results in 2023 have overall been very good, albeit with a lot of 2nd places, until Autumn. He had another Code S three-peat, but then failed to even get past the first group stage in the latest Code S season, with disappointing losses to Scarlett and Solar. He had another disappointing loss 0-3 vs DRG in a showmatch tournament recently.
The other disappointing results from Maru were his matches versus MaxPax, as he lost all 5 encounters versus the Danish protoss.
However, there are good things going for Maru in this DH Winter. Firstly, his now nemesis MaxPax is not coming since it is an offline tournament. Secondly, even though he had disappointing losses in individual tournaments, his results in the WTL have been stellar, even getting the tie versus Serral in an important match for 1st place vs Basilisk. In fact, it’s the only map Maru lost in the regular season of WTL winter.
Finally, he is still Maru: despite mostly playing in the more important tournaments, thus facing in average stronger players than Dark who played in a lot of open cups, Maru has had a 265w-112l (70.29%) map record this year, and 102w-30l (77.27%) in matches. Dark meanwhile boasts a similarly impressive record: 1181w–539l (68.66%) in maps, 481w–154l (75.75%) in matches, but with a lot of easier opponents. He is still the favorite versus a lot of players, and his recent WTL performance across all three match-ups suggests that he is back in shape on this new patch and map pool.
Similarly to Maru, Reynor is a difficult player to rank, except there is a heuristic that seems to work quite well when trying to assess Reynor’ strength: the higher the prizepool & prestige of a tournament, the better Reynor will play. He made top 8 in DH Summer EU, but top 4 in the international one, and in particular won the highly contested gamers8 tournament, coming in top form for the biggest (outside of Katowice) tournament of the year.
Afterwards, he had relatively disappointing performances in the recent tournaments, especially WTL, but his top 3 at DH:Winter EU suggests to me that he is back in a decent shape, and will probably show up even better in Atlanta. It was pretty difficult to settle the tie between Reynor, Dark and Clem, but I gave the Italian zerg the benefit of the doubt with his victory at gamers8, and the fact that he tends to play better when the stakes are higher.
His 9th rank in aligulac rating should not fool you: Rogue was also a player with “low” aligulac rating compared to his tournament results, precisely because he had the same tendency of performing better for the big tournaments, and practice less diligently after winning.
With so many World Championship finals and a victory, you can’t really count Reynor out, and contrary to Dark, he has won gold in 2023.
Dark might have won Code S two times this year if not for the Onsyde Gaming star players: he lost 2-4 vs Maru in the finals of season 2, and 0-3 vs Solar in season 3 semifinals (but he was probably the favorite versus GuMiho if he beat Solar). Still, with a top 6, a top 4 and a top 2 in 2023 Code S seasons, Dark has been consistently great domestically, and so far a more solid player than Reynor in WTL Winter for his team. However, he is lacking a tournament victory, and I wouldn’t consider him as the favorite against any player from the top 3 of this PR.
Dark is still a scary player and does not get upset much, so the only player below him that could have an argument for being put higher, is Clem. Indeed, Clem’s aligulac rating has skyrocketed recently, and he has been performing very well domestically, often losing only versus Serral. However, Clem international results are still lacking, even though he has shown signs of brilliance taking out Maru in gamers8, while Dark has been performing well domestically or internationally basically every year since LotV’s launch. This makes me confident he deserves the #5 spot in this PR.
Funny how things can change quickly in Starcraft. Before code S season 3, I wouldn’t have put Clem above Cure in a power rank of an international tournament. The French terran had overcome his international nerves and beat Maru in gamers8, but he was outclassed afterwards. Cure on the other hand was becoming stronger and stronger, and I was so sure he was the clear favorite in season 3 after Maru dropped out in group stage 1 (Maru clutched his way into a reverse sweep in code S season 2 versus Cure). Indeed, Cure was looking great in every match-up, making terran look imba, especially in TvP. However, Cure has had forgettable results afterwards, and his aligulac ranking started to plummet, while Clem is still on the rise.
Him and MaxPax are absolutely dominating the EPT Cup Europe, and NA to a lesser extent, and Clem is pretty clearly the 2nd best player in European tournaments behind Serral, defeating every other contender (Reynor included). The fact that Clem found a way to defeat Maru in an international tournament (albeit losing to Reynor right after), makes me confident he can reach international results close to his EU results, which makes him a solid #6 spot player. If he manages to play his best sc2, he might even beat any of the player listed above him, but it’s a long shot.
Cure has had a fantastic year, mirroring Dark in Code S results with top 6, top 4 and top 2 finishes in 2023. He even reached the finals of gamers8, with victories versus Dark, Classic and Solar before ultimately losing to Reynor. However, his Code S results were actually top 2, top 4 and top 6 in terms of order. Maru eliminated him in the first two seasons, and Cure was a big favorite after the Onsyde Gaming terran fell early on in season 3. Alas, he beat DRG in group stage 2, but couldn’t defeat GuMiho or Solar. His momentum was great throughout the year, but it fell flat in the end.
Still, Cure is a Code S champion and has shown he is capable of playing sc2 at an absurdly high level this year, so I give him the benefit of the doubt, he definitely belongs in the top 8.
Classic had a rough 2022, but he has overall been a strong contender in 2023. Despite not being labeled as the best protoss, contrary to his fellow citizen herO, his results actually suggest he was the best performing protoss in 2023, among those who play offline. Quietly having solid results: top 6 code S season 1, top 8 ESL:Summer, top 12 code S season 2, top 8 at gamers8 and top 4 in code S season 3. The fact that Classic is directly seeded for the winners stage while herO has to play from the open stage is pretty telling, isn’t it?
Classic’s aligulac rating isn’t particularly impressive, being the 4th protoss at 2978 rating behind MaxPax #1 (3503), herO #2 (3413) and ShoWTimE #3 (2981), but he has been performing well in the high stakes tournament. He defeated both herO and Creator in code S season 3 to become the only protoss in playoffs, but his most interesting tournament result was imo at gamers8. He showed insane gameplay there, with a 2-0 over Reynor, 2-1 vs ByuN and 2-1 vs Serral. He ultimately lost to Cure 1-3 in quarterfinals, but his group stage performance makes me think he is still worthy of being put in the top 8 of this power rank, despite having a meh aligulac rating.
Putting herO below Classic might seem odd, but he is in a similar spot as ByuN, with good performances online that put him very high on aligulac, but disappointing offline results compared to this very same rating. Additionally, herO had the burden of carrying the hopes of protoss ever since his GSL win and the departure of several top protosses to the military, so his offline struggles were pretty painful. Still, even though he was not as strong offline as expected, he is one of the top dogs in Atlanta, and is actually the reigning champion from DH Atlanta 2022. He has decent odds versus every player minus probably only Serral, and might even win it all if he has a very good day. Still, I am going to respect Classic’s consistency in the offline tournaments, and put herO at #9 right below him.
ByuN being put below Classic despite having a +300~ aligulac rating differential might seem insane, even without taking into account the possibility of his wrists falling. But if you look at results in premier tournaments, ByuN has performed decently well, but overall worse than every player ranked above him. In fact, Oliveira and GuMiho have good arguments for being put above ByuN: Oliveira is the reigning world champion, while GuMiho reached the finals in both ESL Summer and Code S season 3.
However, I consider their results as flukes, playing at their utmost peak for a day or two. ByuN on the other hand is always a threat, for example his victory versus Clem despite already being eliminated in Katowice 2022, his solid performances in WTL, and his good online results. His bracket in group B might be more difficult than GuMiho’s, but I still believe he will be a bigger hurdle to players in the top 8 of this PR than these two terrans.
Once again, this take is bold: we have already discussed putting ByuN above Oliveira and GuMiho. But putting Oliveira above GuMiho? The Chinese terran has been a ghost after Katowice, while GuMiho performed above expectations in both ESL Summer and Code S.
Firstly, Oliveira has had visa issues earlier this year that were not his fault. The pressure was also huge after winning Katowice, and he could not really deliver. Before becoming the world champion, a top 14 at gamers8 with losses versus Solar, Reynor and Clem and a single win vs HeroMarine would have been what was expected of him. Now, it’s a big upset. Welcome to the big leagues Oliveira!
Still, I believe that after his recent performances, people don’t expect as much out of him anymore, which should alleviate a bit of the pressure. And we have seen what Oliveira is capable of when he is the underdog. This is why I put him above GuMiho (and the other solid players below him), despite average results this year. He has a shot at winning the whole thing, even if slim, and should be slightly favorite versus the other players.
Coming off a 2nd place in Code S, and even a 2nd place in the previous international DH tournament, GuMiho being put that low might seem like a heresy. However, the players above him are all world champions or more dominant domestically than GuMiho, with better aligulac ratings (except for Classic by a tiny margin), so I don’t think it is that bold of a take afterall.
Everything has been said already: GuMiho took some time after his military service to become a strong player once again, but he delivered in a big way in 2023 with solid performances in ESL Summer and in Code S season 3. However, I still think the players above him will on average be stronger than him.
ShoWTimE seems to me like some sort of gatekeeper between the aspirant top players, and the actual top players of both EU and KR regions. Indeed, he is consistently strong and difficult to beat when you are not already a top player like Serral or Reynor (and now Clem has well), but on the other hand he rarely punches above his weight and ends up losing to the super strong players, looking good in the process.
Gamers8? He beat Spirit, but lost to Maru, Reynor and herO (respectively 0-2, 1-2, 1-2).
ESL Summer Europe? Qualifies for the playoffs, but loses to the PvP king MaxPax 0-3.
Masters Coliseum 6? He manages to defeat MaxPax, but he is in the group of death and loses to Maru, Serral and GuMiho, failing to qualify for the next stage. His absolute worst result was an elimination in the open bracket of ESL Summer, losing 0-2 to SKillous and 1-2 to RagnaroK. Even then, these players are strong.
It is a good sign that in the recent DH:Winter EU, ShoWTimE managed to defeat his protoss nemesis MaxPax 3-2 as well as HeroMarine 3-0 / 3-1. He ended up losing vs Reynor and Clem, but he still gets a spot in the winners stage, and he cements his status as a top 4 player in Europe, especially offline. Still, while I see him above the players below him, it’s not by that big of a margin, and he has a slim chance of winning versus the players above.
Perhaps inspired by (pls cross out the names) Vanya / Rattata / Wayne success after changing his nickname, RagnaroK has evolved into SHIN. His results this year have been mediocre in the GSL, but he had good showings online, notably in Masters Coliseum 6, and his form in the end of last season with a GSL finals and a top 4 at Katowice was fantastic. This makes me give him the benefit of the doubt, and he is imo a favorite to make it out of the open bracket.
Creator results have gotten better throughout the year, with notably a top 6 in the latest code S. He is still a very emotional player, but he manages it a bit better and is now capable of playing at a very high level somewhat more consistently. He is also a favorite to make it past the open bracket, and has a long shot at getting into the playoffs.
Bunny had a very good start this season, with a top 4 finish in the first code S season, but his subsequent performances have been average at best, until the latest code S, where he managed to reach the top 8.
Since he is in an upward trend, and is the finalist from last year Atlanta, I will put him in the top 16, even though his form might not be as good as late 2022 / early 2023.
Once upon a time the King of EPT cups / monday, his reign has stopped. Clem and MaxPax are absolutely stealing the show on monday, but HeroMarine is still a very capable terran. Although Spirit has gathered more points than Big Gabe in Europe, I still consider him a bit stronger especially in those international events. After all, HeroMarine was super close to qualify for Katowice 2022 finals, while Spirit hasn’t reached the same highs ever in his career.
Still, HeroMarine’s results have been a little too fragile to put him in the top 16, but he is one of the favorites to make it past the open bracket, and could prove a dangerous opponent in the knockout bracket.
It is a toss up between Spirit and Astrea, but Astrea was the most dominant player domestically between the two, albeit in a weaker region. They are neck and neck on aligulac, their HSC performance is similar, so it is difficult to rank them, but I believe Astrea has a better shot at punching above his weight, and being dominant domestically might also give him more confidence than hit a wall repeatedly in DH:Europe like Spirit is.
Either way, both players have very difficult first matches, with Astrea being put against Cure and Spirit versus Dark, so their best bet is to fall to the knockout bracket and try to survive as long as they can. Still, his good domestic performance makes me put him above the likes of DRG, Elazer or Lambo as well.
Spirit has made headlines recently, with his transfer to NaVi, which is coming to Starcraft 2 alongside Cloud9, presumably for the “World Championship” in Saudi Arabia next year, that features Starcraft 2 in his “club” championship. He was a key player for PsiStorm in the WTL, which hurts them, but it is probably a good move for Spirit’s career.
Spirit is the second best performing terran from Europe, eclipsing HeroMarine in the process. However, the players above him are so strong, I don’t see myself putting him above any of them. Astrea is cementing himself as the best NA player by a good margin, and while ShoWTimE gathered less ESL points than Spirit, his recent form seems better, in both ESL Winter: EU and HSC 24. As for HeroMarine, his international experience at the top level makes me confident he can perform a bit better than Spirit.
Lambo, SKillous and Elazer have almost the same results in the DH tournaments. However, Lambo performed better in the international DH Summer, notably beating RagnaroK, Has and Bunny. While this was a long time ago and a single string of results, that’s how I will differentiate players so close in skill.
I put Elazer above SKillous, DRG and Ryung because he has had a lot of experience in high level international tournaments, but it is virtually a tie. He had a decent showing at gamers8 as well, which helps me make this choice as well.
DRG had forgettable results this year, except in the latest Code S season where he made the top 8, even beating Astrea and ByuN. However, his results in the WTL have been non-existent, and his online results are quite average, so I don’t expect him to perform particularly well in this tournament. His ZvT is still his best match-up, so with some bracket luck he might qualify for the knockout bracket.
Ryung is a difficult player to rank, but he has things going for him in this open bracket. His TvT and TvP can be quite good, and there are a lot of protosses there. His TvZ is a weakness but there aren’t that many strong zergs here, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he found a way to the knockout bracket.
Given the fact that DRG had a good code S season 3 performance, I put him above SKillous. As for Ryung, given his strong TvP, I also put him above the TL protoss. SKillous has confirmed his status of top 3 european protoss, but I don’t think that’s enough to go super far in these stacked international tournaments. He has a decent shot of going to the knockout bracket though.
Scarlett not only managed to qualify for code S season 3, she also beat Maru in group stage. She couldn’t go further, but this performance alongside a decent record in WTL with Shopify Rebellion makes me put her as someone who has a real shot at getting past the open bracket, albeit she is not among the favorites to do so, by a tiny margin.
It is quite difficult to rank NightMare: I feel like I haven’t seen him play much this year, mostly because he lost quite early in every GSL Code S. Still, he is a dangerous protoss that may give a fright to the open bracket players. He had arguably the best run of his life last year at Atlanta, but this was a fluke, right?
Is 2023 the year of Harstem? Either way, he is a decently strong protoss and performed relatively well for Shopify Rebellion in the WTL. He has a lot of experience and could very well qualify from the open bracket depending on the bracket. However, there are so many good players in there that I can’t put him above this spot.
It is pretty unfortunate that FireFly isn’t able to make it to Atlanta, because the Chinese protoss had very exciting results in the WTL or IEM Katowice qualifier this past few months.
However, his substitute Cyan is also a promising player from China, although he is probably a bit weaker compared to some open bracket players, against whom he regularly loses online, so I have to put him below them.
Cyan lost to Bunny in the closed qualifier of Katowice, but defeated Ryung 2-1 and DRG 3-1 to get his spot, which is a solid performance, good enough for me to put him above the remaining players.
We don’t see Kelazhur play very often as EU viewers, and while he is a solid terran, I think he is the weakest player from the winners stage, and I wouldn’t pick him as a favorite to qualify if he was in the open bracket. Kelazhur was a benchwarmer for Team Liquid in the WTL and is now teamless. Still, he beat SpeCial, Cham and trigger to get his spot, so he is in good shape, but each match will be difficult.
If this was an online tournament, I would probably put trigger far higher, as he seems to be able to upset a lot of players from time to time. However, he still has troubles in high stakes tournaments, probably from a lack of experience, so I will put him quite low in this PR. He has a slim chance of getting past the open bracket though.
#31 (32) MaNa + Gerald
There are several up and coming players, notably from NA, that could have made this list (not that it means much, it’s just a PR :D), but I went for the Polish protosses MaNa and Gerald given their experience. They are not the favorite to make it past the open bracket, but they will probably be the gatekeeper for a lot of players.